A sorry state by Trevor Plumbly


It’s getting more and more difficult to find a blog topic these days; there’s too much heavy stuff out there and lots of folk waiting to spread a bit of grief. Take out politics, religion, racism, sexual identity and there’s not much left to debate about with much hope of a result. We’ve become inundated with thin-ice sensitivities; down here in God’s little acre, the days of carrying stoicism to the point of walking rigour have all but disappeared in favour of orchestrated outpourings. As soon as Mea Culpa became an international sport, we fielded a team and we’re not doing badly so far! It’s not a handicap event so we can’t use the ‘we’re just a small country card’ yet, but I’m pretty sure it’ll get slapped down when we play the big boys. I’m not convinced that this outbreak of humility will decorate past injustices, but it beats finger pointing so it’s worth a few words.

Thou shalt not!

If confession’s a cheap way of washing mental laundry, I’m all for it, but the PTSD thing seems a problem; it apparently can hit you as a kid, then hibernate for ages. I reckon that’s what’s blocked my thought processes all these years. My schooldays were based around Darwinism, big kids bullied and smaller kids got forced to develop survival techniques. Normally, I could dodge the physical stuff, but when Jumbo Mercer cornered me, flight wasn’t an option. After getting a couple of hefty whacks, a kick in his crutch seemed like a good defence, but far from seeing this as a nifty way to even the odds, the powers that were decided it was ‘disgraceful’ and ‘thuggish’. But even then sorry was sorry and a public apology was ordered along with the obligatory meaningless handshake. Sorry for Christ’s sake! The bugger was born evil and at least two stone heavier than me; if I did any lasting damage to his breeding tackle I reckon the world owes me one.

And punish the wrongdoer

Once finished with the ‘mannerly’ protocols, the school enforced its own form of thuggery by adding ‘six of the best’ to underline the point. At that time, caning was carried out in full assembly, presumably to top up the pain with a spot of humiliation. The process itself was almost ceremonial, delivered at the end of normal school announcements for full theatrical effect. On being called from the back of the room, I shuffled down the aisle, past smirking faces, to the stage. Mr Bailey milked his starring role, pacing towards me, wearing an expression of resigned regret whilst warming himself up by doing a couple of air swishes with the cane, much like a golfer practicing his swing. Following his performance, I trudged back through the now grinning audience, red faced, arse stinging and nursing the seeds of resentment. Looking back, I must have rejected the virtue of sorry, leaving the door wide open for PTSD.

A penitent’s progress

It’s misguided to take a firm stance these days; according to the social soldiers, it’s vital for us all to think along the same lines. ‘Think from the other’s position’ is the catchphrase, which strikes me as a sure way towards a stalemate, in which case neither party would have anything to be sorry for, but at least they’ll have stress disorder to fall back on. NZ’s on the verge of introducing ‘hate speech’ legislation to bolster the PC line. Thus, skinny & fat, her & him, short & lanky, along with skin colour and ethnicity will get shoved in the ‘hush’ basket. Jewish and Irish jokes will not be tolerated, nor will any with a sexual content, however vague. But who the hell needs humour when there’s plenty of plastic guilt to go round? Life looks like becoming a real bore with sanitised extremes. I’m beginning to think ‘the good old days’ were in fact ‘good old days’, and with that in mind you’re welcome to come back Mr Bailey, I think I owe you an apology.

PLUMBLY T. Form 3. (1953).

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